In Bali – Rice is Life

In Bali – Rice is Life

In Bali rice is life. The cycles of community life are centered around the cycles of rice farming. Yes, rice is the island’s staple food – but it is much more.

1. Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice, is the favorite manifestation of God among the Balinese.

2. Rice is used as an offering to both the benevolent and evil spirits.

Each day a small woven palm frond tray with a pinch of cooked rice, or nasi, along with possibly a frangipani blossom, a little betel or a stick of incense is casually placed on the ground around the family compound to keep evil spirits at bay.

3. Finally, growing rice is a cooperative community effort, thus the social and cultural framework of village life.

Bali Rice

Rice cultivation in Bali goes back at least 2,000 years. Many of the terraced rice fields and the water distribution system of ditches and diversionary dams one sees today were built by hand in the ninth century. Along this extensive water system is a network of temples, the holiest being Ulun Danu Batur which sits above the crater lake Batur. Below Batur, but above entire farming regions are the large Masceti temples that control water flow for an entire watershed and set irrigation schedules. Below the Masceti temples are the Ulun Swi temples which connect with a single canal, weir or spring and supplies the subuks or group of farms below. Each Subuk or farm collective has its own temple as well. And to complete the network of temples, each farm will have a small temple or shrine. Rituals and ceremonies are performed and offerings are made at all water temples. Many are quite elaborate and include gamelans. Besides asking for plenty of water and good crops, the rituals connect people from the various communities and serve as a reminder that everyone is dependent on water as well as one another.

This communal/spiritual method for rice farming along with abundant rainfall and rich volcanic soil allows the Balinese to harvest two to three crops per year with yields near the highest anywhere.

Bali Rice

And then there is the breathtaking beauty of terraced rice fields fringed by coconut palms and  volcanic mountains as a backdrop.

Simply stunning.

A thousand shades of green.

Incomparable lushness.

Bali Rice

Without a doubt, the most memorable times in Bali were the few days we stayed at a guesthouse in a rice field. Endless walks through rice fields, watching locals come and go along the track that traverses the fields from top to bottom, seeing ducks being herded into freshly harvested paddys to gobble up insects and the remaining grains and to leave their fertilizer. Did I mention delicious roast duck for dinner? Tuning out an endless crowing of roosters. Most fascinating, though, was sitting on our veranda watching rice being harvested by hand as it has been for hundreds of years. Men and women from the local subuk working together.

“Bali’s Rice Culture” is a photo gallery of the beautiful terraced rice fields of Bali, images of the rice planting and harvesting

Ron Mayhew

Fine Art Photographer specializing in Still Life and Commercial Photography.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. [ Smiles ] I am blown away back that scenery of Bali; a splendid picture filled with greenery!

    1. Reynard, thank you for your kind comment. Yes, Bali is lush, green and beautiful.

  2. Some great photos there and well researched and written too

    1. Thank you. I appreciate your kind comment.

  3. The green is so cool! Beautiful shots!

    1. Thank you Patti. Bali is a beautiful island.

  4. Wow! Some really excellent photos to go along with a really well written article! I knew that Bali was a big rice producer, but I had no idea it was that significant in the culture. That’s really interesting information. I always appreciate knowing a little more about a culture. Thanks for sharing this great information!

    1. The rice culture in Bali is fascinating in that it and their spiritual lives are so intertwined. A good lesson for all of us? Thanks for your comment Karen.

  5. Ron, these are gorgeous images. So interesting!

    1. Thanks karen. The intwining of the rice growing cycle into the Balinese culture is fascinating.

  6. Gorgeous photos Ron. And insightful commentary too. Thanks for sharing your experience. Bali deserves a place on the bucket list.

    1. Bali has natural beauty like no place else, but is being loved too much and some of the beautiful rice fields are being converted to condos and guest houses. Thanks for your kind words my friend.

  7. I loved Bali. Stunning photos, Ron. After visiting this country a few years ago, I wished that my dad had taken our family back to his country of birth, instead of settling in England, where he was never very happy.

    1. Thank you Sylvia. Where is your dad from?

  8. Great captured, Ron… 😀
    – Such a familiar place in Bali –

    1. Thanks Bams. Bali is such a magical place and the role rice plays in the culture fascinates me. I appreciate you commenting.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: